A Shiny Robe and an Owl

As Agrippa walked out to give his political speech, the rays of the sun hit his sliver robe like a disco ball, creating such a glorious, glittery appearance that his listeners were completely awestruck. The politician in front of them no longer seemed human, but divine. “The words of a god and not a man!” the audience cheered.

This must have pleased Agrippa, for though he had royal blood in him, his rise to power had been rough. At one point he had become suicidal from how much money he had borrowed in attempts to live the good life and carry out favors for politicians. He even ended up in jail for endorsing a man named Caligula as the next emperor. While chained up there, a man saw Agrippa leaning against a tree with an owl on it. The stranger approached him and told Agrippa that the owl meant that he would rise to power in due time. But he also warned Agrippa that if he ever saw the owl again, he would die in 5 days.

After 6 months, Caligula became emperor and freed Agrippa from his chains and put him in power. Agrippa played the game of politics well and removed his political threats, further expanding his reign. He also saw that it pleased the Jews when he persecuted Christians, so he started to do more of it. All of this helped get him here to this place.

But as he stood before his audience with his glistening silver robe and listened to their cheers, he looked up and saw an owl sitting on a rope above his head, and an instant and severe pain rose up in his stomach. The classic historian Josephus records Agrippa’s words following this moment: “I whom you call a god, am commanded presently to depart this life; while Providence thus reproves the lying words you just now said to me; and I, who was by you called immortal, am immediately to be hurried away by death.” He died five days later at the age of 54 as his stomach pain raged on.

We still make gods out of politicians these days. Sadly, Christians do it too, just in a different way. They know it’s heretical to call humans, “gods,” so instead they claim their favorite politicians can do now wrong, for they were chosen by God and are doing exactly what he wants them to do. Indeed, the blind Christian worship of American politicians has been seen more clearly than ever before in recent times.

*This devotional was created out of the themes of Acts 12:18-25 found in today’s reading at CommonPrayer.net. Check out Agrippa’s story in Josephus’s Antiquities for more information. Also check out the entry on “Agrippa I” in The Lexham Bible Dictionary.

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